Suicide attacks and assaults by the al Qaeda-backed Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant are becoming all too common in Syria. The Al Nusrah Front has claimed credit for yet another attack, this time against a Syrian military outpost in the city of Al Qusayr in Homs province.
In a statement that was released on jihadist Internet forums yesterday and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, the Al Nusrah Front announced a complex suicide assault against the Syrian military outpost in Al Qusayr on Dec. 1. The terror group said a suicide bomber named Abu Ayman al Gharbi rammed a truck packed with explosives into the “barrier” and then an assault team from its Al Bara’a Brigade “stormed the building afterwards and cleansed the remnants.”
The Al Nusrah Front statement went on to “promise its people in the city of AL Qusayr more earth shaking operations,” or suicide attacks. “This blessed operation is merely the beginning.”
The Al Nusrah Front has by far taken the lead among the jihadist groups in executing suicide and other complex attacks against the Syrian military. The terror group has now claimed credit for 42 of the 51 suicide attacks that have taken place in Syria in the past 12 months.
The US government is contemplating adding the Al Nusrah Front to the list of global terrorist groups, but some observers in Washington fear that designation would harm the overall insurgency. From McClatchy:
Some experts warned that declaring Nusrah a foreign terrorist organization was likely to hurt the anti-Assad uprising by fueling tensions between the group and other opposition units.
The designation could disrupt the coordination behind recent rebel advances and even risk clashes among rebel groups.
“I’m not saying they aren’t a terrorist group. But … designating them now would be disastrous,” said Elizabeth O’Bagy, an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War who recently returned from touring rebel-held areas.
The problem with that argument is that the Al Nusrah Front cannot be ignored, and doing so will merely provide the group with cover to expand. The group has become one of the most powerful and effective units in the Syrian insurgency, and it has begun to absorb elements of the supposedly secular Free Syrian Army. The Al Nusrah Front also conducts joint operations with the Free Syrian Army and other groups, and has numerous foreign fighters in its ranks.
Al Nusrah has become one of the most potent al Qaeda franchises. At this point, the fact that the group hasn’t officially joined al Qaeda is a meaningless distinction. The Al Nusrah Front shares al Qaeda’s ideology and tactics, and is leveraging al Qaeda in Iraq’s leadership, fighters, and expertise. Just as it was clear by 2009 that Shabaab was an al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, it is clear that the Al Nusrah Front is an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.
It is unclear how long the Assad regime can hold out. The West may be looking at a situation in the near future where the Al Nusrah Front controls large areas of Syria and gains possession of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles. The official US government stance of a terrorist designation on the Al Nusrah Front would provide much needed clarity when that time comes. Burying our heads in the sand about the nature of the Al Nusrah Front won’t help solve the problem.
Reported or suspected suicide bombings in Syria:
The dates given below are, in most cases, the dates of the attacks. In a few cases, when the date of a claimed attack is unknown, the date of Al Nusrah’s claim of responsibility is used. So far, no other group has claimed responsibility for suicide attacks in Syria since December 2011.
Dec. 23, 2011 – Two car bombings in Damascus on this day are the first known suicide attacks in Syria since the rebellion began nine months earlier. The attacks targeted the regime’s intelligence offices, killing at least 44 people and wounding more than 160 others. According to the National Counterterrorism Center, it is likely that two female suicide bombers deployed by Al Qaeda in Iraq were responsible.
Jan. 6, 2012 – A suicide car bomb attack killed 26 people in Damascus. The Al Nusrah Front later claimed responsibility for the attack.
Feb. 10, 2012 – Twin suicide car bombings killed 28 people in Aleppo. The Al Nusrah Front later claimed responsibility for the attack.
Mar. 17, 2012 – Two suicide car bombings killed at least 27 people and wounded 100 or more in Damascus. The bombings targeted the Assad regime’s security forces. The Al Nusrah Front later claimed responsibility for the bombings and released a video, translated by SITE, showing the two bombers giving speeches before their attacks.
April 20, 2012 – A suicide bomber attacked Syrian military forces dining at a restaurant in Hama. The Al Nusrah Front later claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the Syrian forces targeted had massacred civilians in a nearby town.
April 24, 2012 – A suicide bomber attacked the Iranian Cultural Consulate in Damascus. The Al Nusrah Front later claimed responsibility for the attack.
April 27, 2012 – A suicide bomber attacked at a mosque in the Midan neighborhood of Damascus. The attack reportedly killed 11 people and wounded 28 more. The Al Nusrah Front later claimed responsibility, saying the attack targeted regime personnel who were attending prayers.
April 30, 2012 – In an apparent attack on Syrian military intelligence services, two bombs are detonated in the town of Idlib. According to Reuters, state-controlled media said that nine people were killed, with 100 more wounded, and two suicide bombers were responsible. An “activist” said that 20 people were killed. The Associated Press also attributed the attack to suicide bombers.
May 10, 2012 - Two suicide car bomb attacks killed at least 55 people and wounded more than 370 others in Damascus. According to the BBC, the “blasts happened near a military intelligence building during morning rush hour.” Days later, it appeared that Al Nusrah claimed credit for the attacks in a video online. Subsequently, however, Al Nusrah denied the validity of the video, saying it had not been published by the group’s official media arm.
May 19, 2012 – A suicide bomber attacked the Syrian intelligence services in Deir al-Zor. According to Reuters, the state news agency said that nine people were killed and approximately 100 others were wounded. The Al Nusrah Front later claimed responsibility for the bombing.
June 1, 2012 – A suicide bomber attacked a Syrian military camp in Idlib. The suicide bomber’s attack was just one component of the complex assault, which also involved an ambush and IED attacks. The Al Nusrah Front later claimed responsibility for the raid.
June 7, 2012 – A suicide bomber attacked a bus carrying state security personnel in Aleppo. The Al Nusrah Front claimed responsibility for the operation.
June 14, 2012 – A suicide bomber attacked state security services outside of Damascus. The Al Nusrah Front claimed responsibility for the attack and said that “many” security personnel were killed.
June 26, 2012 – The Al Nusrah Front claims that it conducted two suicide bombings against Syrian military forces on this day. The terrorist organization also claimed that 250 Syrian soldiers were killed in the attacks, according to translations prepared by SITE. The Long War Journal did not find independent verification for the high number of casualties claimed by the Al Nusrah Front.
June 30, 2012 – In a statement dated this day, the Al Nusrah Front claimed that a suicide bomber attacked a security barrier in Daraa, a town in southern Syria. The group did not say when the attack took place. On Mar. 3, a car bomb was detonated near a military checkpoint in Daraa. The Syrian government claimed it was a suicide attack that killed two people; opposition forces denied that it was a suicide attack. According to a local resident interviewed by Reuters, at least seven people were killed and eight more were wounded. It is unclear if the Mar. 3 attack is the same one claimed by Al Nusrah.
July 18, 2012 – A bomb killed senior Syrian military and intelligence officials. There are conflicting reports as to whether a suicide bombing or a remote-controlled explosive device was used in the attack. Among those killed was Assef Shawkat, the deputy defense minister and former head of Syrian military intelligence. Shawkat, who was the brother-in-law of Bashar al Assad, had supported AQI for years.
July 19, 2012 – In a statement released online days later, the Al Nusrah Front claimed it launched a suicide operation targeting a security barrier in Ma’arat al-Nu’man that killed 60 Syrian soldiers on this day.
Aug. 7, 2012 – In a statement released on this day, the Al Nusrah Front said that a suicide bomber targeted “a military security detachment … in the area of Mhardeh in the Hama countryside.” It is not clear what day the actual attack took place.
Aug. 17, 2012 – The Al Nusrah Front claims that a suicide bomber attacked a gathering of 600 regime “thugs” in Hama on this day. The total number of casualties was not reported.
Aug. 28, 2012 – Al Nusrah claimed it executed a suicide attack “against a large gathering inside the new Equestrian Club” in Hama. The total number of casualties was not reported.
Sept. 2, 2012 – In a statement released on this day, Al Nusrah claimed that a suicide bomber attacked the “Ibn Wardan barrier in Hama governorate.” The total number of casualties was not reported.
Sept. 4, 2012 – A suicide bomber known as Abu Khattab al Shami detonated his explosives-packed car at the airport at Albu Kamal. Fighters then launched a follow-on attack. The total number of casualties was not reported.
Sept. 8, 2012 – A suicide bomber identified as Abu Abdullah al Shami attacked a hospital in Aleppo, killing 27 soldiers and wounding 64 more.
Sept. 11, 2012 – Al Nusrah released a statement claiming that Abu al Farooq al Shamali bombed “the fortress of the enemies” in al Bareed al Thani in Deir al Zour. The number of those killed and wounded in the attack was not disclosed.
Sept. 11, 2012 – Al Nusrah claimed that a suicide bomber struck “a barracks of the enemy” in Idlib.
Sept. 26, 2012 – Al Nusrah claimed it launched a complex suicide assault on the Army Headquarters in Damascus. Four soldiers were killed, and 14 more were wounded.
Sept. 30, 2012 – Al Nusrah claimed credit for a suicide attack that targeted the headquarters of Political and Criminal Security in Qamishli in Hasaka province. The group claimed it killed 30 people and wounded 80 others.
Oct. 3, 2012 – An Al Nusrah suicide bomber detonated a car bomb outside the Officer’s club in Aleppo. Minutes later, a second suicide bomber detonated at the tourist hotel next to the Officer’s club, and then a suicide assault team stormed the hotel.
Oct. 3, 2012 – Al Nusrah launched a suicide attack on the Political Security headquarters in Deir al-Zour, and claimed 50 people were killed and 60 more were wounded.
Oct. 9, 2012 – Al Nusrah launched a complex suicide attack on the Air Force intelligence branch in Harasta outside of Damascus. More than 100 casualties were reported.
Oct. 9, 2012 – Al Nusrah claimed credit for a complex attack on an outpost in Ain Tarma near Damascus that killed 75 Syrian soldiers.
Oct. 12, 2012 – Al Nusrah launched a suicide attack on the Political Security headquarters in Deir al-Zour.
Oct. 12, 2012 – A pair of suicide bombers attacked the al Sahwah Air Defense Brigade in Daraa.
Nov. 5, 2012 – Al Nusrah claimed the suicide attack in Hama that killed more than 50 Syrian soldiers.
Nov. 9, 2012 – A suicide bomber killed several military personnel at a checkpoint near the city of Soran in Hama.
Nov. 10, 2012 – A pair of suicide bombers attacked a military camp in Daraa that is used by military and intelligence forces. The attack killed 20 soldiers.
Nov. 19, 2012 – Al Nusrah claimed to have killed 60 Syrian soldiers and destroyed two tanks in an attack on a military unit in Barad.
Nov. 21, 2012 – Al Nusrah claimed to attack a French hospital in Aleppo. The hospital was being used as a military headquarters, the group claimed.
Nov. 25, 2012 – An Al Nusrah suicide bomber blew up his “explosives-laden vehicle” at the officers’ club in Daraa. The date of the attack was not given.
Nov. 25, 2012 – An Al Nusrah suicide bomber targeted a gas station in Daraa that “became a gathering place for a large number of soldiers.” The date of the attack was not given.
Nov. 26, 2012 – An Al Nusrah suicide bomber targeted a group of soldiers in West Ghouta outside of Damascus.
Nov. 28, 2012 – A pair of suicide bombers killed 34 people in an attack in a commercial area of the Damascus suburb of Jaramana.
Dec. 1, 2012 – An Al Nusrah Front attacked a Syrian military outpost in Al Qusayr, and then an assault team from its Al Bara’a Brigade “stormed the building afterwards and cleansed the remnants.”
Dec. 2, 2012 – An Al Nusrah suicide bomber supposedly killed 50 Syrian soldiers in an attack on an outpost near an airport in Aleppo.